Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Odd Couple: ATT and Apple

I recently went to purchase an iPhone 3G here in lovely San Francisco. Walking toward the Apple store, I remembered that halfway between my office and the beautiful apple store at one stockton street is an AT&T store. I don't really need to go to the Apple store, I thought to myself. So instead I went through the glass doors at the corner of Market and 3rd and into customer hell.

The first thing I noticed was the grouchy sullen customers seated around the room -- perched is probably a better way to describe this as there wasn't really anywhere to sit. So they were leaning against displays, sitting on the ground... The second thing I noticed was the sullen AT&T employee with a clipboard who approached me.

"Hi, can I put you on the waiting list?" he asked.

"Uh... how long is the wait?"

"Only 20-30 minutes."

OK, so here I am, a live customer wanting to give them my money, and they want me to sit on the ground in their store for 20-30 minutes in order to have the privilege of buying something from them!? I said no thank you, turned around and walked right out again. Off to the Apple store a few more blocks down Market.

When I arrived at the Apple store it was buzzing with happy people. A smiling Apple employee was waiting at the front door here as well.

"How can I help you today?" he asked.

"I'd like to buy an iPhone 3G"

"I can bring it right to you - do you know what size and color you want?"

This is a company that actually wants my business. Too bad it is attached to one that doesn't. Like Oscar and Felix, you have to wonder (other than a script writer looking for gags) what makes these two companies able to even stand talking to each other much less trying to offer a joint customer experience.

When I happily walked back to my office, I had to stop at the AT&T store again and wave my new phone at the sullen AT&T employee with the clipboard. In the same amount of time that I would have been sitting on the floor of his horrible shop I had walked to the Apple store, had a great shopping experience, and walked back again.

Memo to AT&T executives -- could you PLEASE learn something from your partner Apple?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Web 2.0 Summit is a Success

From October 5 through October 7th in 2004 I was at the Hotel Nikko in California as a paying attendee of the very first O'Reilly Web 2.0 conference. It was a fantastic event and got my attention re-focused on a set of technologies and markets that I continue to focus on to this day. At the time I was an entrepreneur-in-residence for Mohr Davidow Ventures but since then I have been a poor struggling entrepreneur and have chosen to hang out in the lobby instead of paying to attend. This year that changed, and I once again paid to attend the now 5 year old Web 2.0 Summit and I am happy I did.

Yes, it is expensive to attend. But overall, there are few better places to check in with the leading change-makers in technology and business. The topics, people, and format all generated a perfect environment for thinking about the coming year and what we have to get done as business people and citizens to improve our companies and the world.

Whether it was Mary Meeker pushing through 50 slides in 20 minutes of her Technology / Internet Trends Report or Shai Agassi explaining how his company Better Place is transforming the way we will use electric cars or the brilliant closing remarks by Al Gore about the election and how the Internet is transforming democracy... Web 2.0 Summit absolutely delivered on the promise that:
"...the leaders of the Internet economy are turning their attention to the world outside our industry. And conversely, the best minds of our generation are turning to the Web for solutions. At the fifth annual Web 2.0 Summit, we'll endeavor to bring these groups together."
They did and I was glad I was there for the event. I'll be a paying attendee again in 2009.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mashup Camp

I think there is still room at Mashup Camp in Mountain View this weekend, you can register here: www.mashupcamp.com/mountain-view-november/

They seem to have a great group of sponsors and also have over $9k in prizes, including:

-Amazon Kindle

-Amex Gift Cards

-Dell 24” flat panel LCD monitor

-Macbook Pro

-cash prizes

Hope I see you there!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Aer Lingus Bankruptcy

Hello Aer Lingus, are you listening? I doubt it. Today you had an opportunity to make me into a huge fan and instead you turned me into a hater. If you'd like to know how customer service can work to make your business loved by customers, go study Zappos and see how a REAL company treats its customers. You guys? Well, you suck.

Sure, you just lost 20 million euros. Sure your staff is all about to go on strike. But maybe your real problem is that you have really lousy policies that demonstrate that you hate your customers!

I booked a flight from Heathrow to Dublin - a route you fly every hour. I happened to get done in London early and came out to the airport early. So I walked up to your ticket counter to see if there was space on an earlier flight. Why yes, there is! In fact there is lots of space! And not just on one flight, but on three flights prior to mine (I am on the last of the day). BUT your policy is to charge full fare -- an extra 150 pounds sterling -- to change!! That is stupid.

You had the chance to delight me by getting to Dublin early, at no additional cost to you. Instead I am sitting in the Heathrow airport, mad at you, vowing never to book on your airline again.

Sounds like you'll lose more than 20 million euros next year. In fact, I think you'll be BANKRUPT. In a bad economy, the remaining customers have choices and they will choose the best airlines - and that is NOT you.

Or you can change! It would be hard, but give it a try.. oh yeah. You aren't even listening.

Well, for the rest of you that are -- take a look at Aer Lingus, they are a great example of what NOT to do.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

22 Solid Social Media Examples

Great article by Peter Kim on Mashable "The 22 Step Social Media Marketing Plan." Peter lists these 22 social media tools and gives concrete examples of companies using them:

Here’s a framework of 22 tools to consider with notable brand examples:

1. Blogs (Johnson & Johnson, Delta Air Lines)
2. Bookmarking/Tagging (Adobe, Kodak)
3. Brand monitoring (Dell, MINI)
4. Content aggregation (Alltop, EMC)
5. Crowdsourcing/Voting (Oracle, Starbucks)
6. Discussion boards and forums (IBM, Mountain Dew)
7. Events and meetups (Molson, Pampers)
8. Mashups (Fidelity Investments, Nike)
9. Microblogging (method, Whole Foods)
10. Online video (Eukanuba, Home Depot)
11. Organization and staffing (Ford, Pepsi)
12. Outreach programs (Nokia, Yum Brands)
13. Photosharing (Rubbermaid, UK Government)
14. Podcasting (Ericsson, McDonalds)
15. Presentation sharing (CapGemini, Daimler AG)
16. Public Relations - social media releases (Avon, Intel)
17. Ratings and reviews (Loblaws, TurboTax)
18. Social networks: applications, fan pages, groups, and personalities (British Airways, Saturn)
19. Sponsorships (Coca-Cola, Whirlpool)
20. Virtual worlds (National Geographic, Toyota)
21. Widgets (Southwest Airlines, Target)
22. Wikis (Second Life, T-Mobile Sidekick)

Definitely worth reading the whole post but also his blog, Being Peter Kim

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Obama Already Changing Government

OK its not working right now, but keep trying it -- Obama's transition team has launched a website -- http://www.change.gov/ which invites all of America to start getting engaged in the work of changing government. I am so glad that the terrific team that Obama put together to guide his online work for the campaign is still hard at work and is already making history with the way this government is going to use the Internet to connect citizens with their government!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


This says HOPE to me:

LinkedIn asks that you not use their Apps

Originally uploaded by Ted Shelton
Open letter to Reid:

You know I am a huge supporter, have been a LinkedIn member since you were in private Beta. And you know how eagerly I have awaited the launch of your applications platform.

But I have to say, I keep finding myself saying "what the heck??" when I try to use your product.

I'd like to suggest that you open up a collaborative product development process with your customers to get feedback from the people that want you to succeed on how your product needs to evolve to achieve the promise that it so clearly has but has not yet fulfilled.

This kind of message (see attached) tell me in big red bold type - GO AWAY, DON'T USE OUR PRODUCT.

I don't think that is the message you want to send.



Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The News Media They are a-Changin'

(With apologies to Bob Dylan) Inspired by the news this last week that the Christian Science Monitor has become the first of the major US newspapers to end print publication -- don't think they'll be the last...

The News Media They Are A-Changin'

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that sources of news
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be digital to the bone.
If your news to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start webbin'
Or you'll disappear with a moan
For the news media they are a-changin'.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the web's still developin'
And there's no tellin' who
will be reportin'
For the journalist now
Will be later a citizen
For the news media they are a-changin'.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
The internet has come
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your Windows
And rattle your walls
For the news media they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old print forms are
Rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the news media they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
Print is
Rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the news media they are a-changin'.

Friday, October 31, 2008

02 (UK) Free iPhones... Hello ATT?

Thank you O2 for my free iPhone. Yes, you heard me. For a minimum monthly contract of £ 45 the nice people at O2 in the UK will give you a free iPhone. My bill has been more like £ 80 a month with the amount I have been over there, so I happily collected my free phone. I still don't have one here in the U.S. though. Do I really want to commit to another two years on ATT? Maybe President Obama will actually re institute some oversight of the communications industry and ATT will be forced to become more competitive... I think I'll wait and see.

In the meantime, Apple, why can't I take my US SIM card and slide it into that UK iPhone. Did you really have to lock phone serial numbers to particular carriers? Sigh. So now I have to carry two phones EVEN IF they are both 3G iPhones.

Which brings me to my other complaint - why can't the carriers figure out how to let us have reasonable calling rates from multiple countries? Even if I have to have a contract with multiple carriers, my SIM should be "multi-homed" -- registered with each carrier I have a contract with.

Anyone in the telecommunications industry listening?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Coming Transformation of the Media Ecosystem

There is a tipping point, as Malcolm Gladwell famously defined it, for the old media world, driven as it has been by advertising dollars. This day of reckoning was coming, no matter what, but now it will be here sooner due to the current economic crises. 2009 could be the first year in a long time with an actual decline in total dollars spent in the US on advertising. And if it is, massive changes will finally take place in the relationship between media, advertising companies, and the public relations business.

Already a memo is circulating claiming that a number of well known print publications are close to failure. Here is a partial list, you'll recognize more than a few: Entertainment Weekly, Kiplinger's Personal Finance, SmartMoney, Men's Vogue, Teen Vogue, Nickelodeon, National Geographic for Kids, Sports Illustrated for Kids.

But the economic pain that publishers are going to experience in the next few quarters is going to bring down quite a few larger publications as well. An analysis of advertising spend as a percentage of GDP over the past 100 years shows that it has fluctuated between 1% and 3% but has been remarkably stable over the past 25 years at around 2% of GDP. This has been over a period when annual GDP has grown from 3.5 trillion to 13.8 trillion dollars (though not as large a growth when inflation is taken into account).

It is clear from the historical record that recessionary periods can put pressure on advertising expenditure both through a decline in the GDP and through a decline in the percentage of GDP spent on advertising. The last time annual Real GDP (which is to say, inflation adjusted GDP) actually declined was the beginning of the 1990s.

As you can see in this graph of historical real GDP by quarter and by year as hard as the early 2000 period was for us in tech, annualized Real GDP didn't drop. In both periods, however, advertising spending declined as a percentage of GDP -- in the early 1990s by .1% and in the early 2000s by .2%. So based on this historical record, media companies should expect a decline in the amount spent on advertising due to the current economic crises, and that decline may be especially severe as Real GDP is likely to fall in 2009.

But something else has clearly been going on in the last few years, even as the economy has been growing, which adds a third threat. From 2004 overall advertising spend as a percentage of GDP has declined by .1% in each year, dropping from 2.4% to 2.0% in 2007. From 2006 to 2007 this meant an inflation adjusted dollar decline in advertising. Arguably this decline is coming as the result of the changing spending habits of corporations within the overall marketing budget. As authors John Deighton and Leora Kornfeld argue in the HBSarticle Unanticipated Consequences
"...the shift from broadcasting to interaction within digital communities is moving the locus of control over meanings from marketer to consumer and rewarding more participatory, more sincere, and less directive marketing styles."
Marketers who are taking this seriously are shifting dollars away from advertising and into more engaging, more direct connection with markets.

If you take all three factors into consideration, a drop of $50 billion on advertising spend in 2009 is conceivable. The actual drop is likely to be less severe, but could be as much as 10% of total spend (which would be about $30 billion). If so, 2009 will be a watershed year for media.

Look at this from the perspective of the complete ecosystem. Tens of billions of dollars reduced from advertising spend means many fewer jobs at advertising companies and perhaps more than a few that fail. The loss of dollars into media companies will reduce the number of journalists, the number of pages, and probably the number of publications. This will then have an impact on traditional PR as there will be fewer journalists and fewer publications to pitch.

All of this is great news for bringing about a new world of direct company-market communications. It will accelerate the realization by companies that they can talk directly to their customers and prospects -- "more participatory, more sincere, and less directive marketing styles."

Monday, October 27, 2008

PitchCamp Winners and thank you to ALL!

Robert Goldberg and I invested a ton of time and thought into our PitchCamp workshop at Web 2.0 Expo Europe (held in Berlin again this year) but I have to say, it would not have been a huge success (thanks Mike Butcher for saying so!) without the tireless help of numerous others. But before I get into the thank you shout outs I must tell you about the terrific companies that won the arduous pitch process. We had 12 great companies and I think all of them made great progress in their pitches. But here were the judges favorites:

And a tie for third place:

We had an incredible group of judges officiating and I must thank all of them --

  • Mike Butcher – European Editor TechCrunch

  • Olivier Creiche – Vice President and General Manager of Europe, Middle East and Africa, Six Apart

  • Simon Levene – Partner, Accel Venture Partners

  • Patrick Liechti – Business Development Manager – Web 2.0 Startups, Sun Microsystems

  • Matt Marshall – Managing Editor and CEO, Venture Beat

  • Dr. Maximillian Niederhofer – Atlas Ventures

  • Mehrdad Piroozram – Managing Partner, iSteps Widget Ventures

  • Jens Redmer – Head of European New Business Development, Google

  • Carsten Rudolph – Emerging Business Team, Microsoft

  • Rob Schiller – Investor and Entrepreneur

  • Reshma Sohoni – CEO, Seedcamp

  • Yossi Vardi – Investor and Entrepreneur

Part of what made this so much fun was a terrific group of sponsors who provided prizes and sponsored the PitchParty afterwards -- I have to especially thank Ernst & Young, LinkedIn, iSteps, ContentTeam, Hobnox, SixApart, and VentureBeat.

But let me save the most superlatives for the tremendous, astounding, wonderful David Nöel of Hobnox who did an amazing amount of work to bring everything together on the ground in Berlin so that we had a great party and hundreds of happy pitchcampers. THANKS DAVID!

Stealing the Election

Attention John McCain - take time now to send a memo to all party members. Subject: Don't Steal The Election. Sure, some of us poor losers in blue states think the Republicans have stolen the last two presidential elections. And perhaps Republicans can forgive us for some of these (hilarious) satires of Diebold voting machines in Florida fixed to only record votes for Dub-yah. After all, there were a few inconsistencies. But does the Republican party really think that America is going to stand for this B.S. again? Apparently they do. Reporting on CNN in an article calmly titled "Long Lines, Glitches Reported in Early Voting" CNN's Sean Callebs, Brian Todd and Manav Tanneeru report this frightening comment from a voter in West Virginia:
In West Virginia's Jackson County, there were some reports that voting machines were accidentally recording the wrong vote.

"I went in there and pushed the Democrat ticket, and it jumped to the Republican ticket for president of the United States," said Calvin Thomas, an 81-year-old West Virginian.
Can this really be true? Did 81-year-old Calvin Thomas simply make this up in order to raise the specter of Republican voter fraud? Did CNN report this as yet another example of the "liberal biased media" stoking the flames of unrest against our duly elected representative government?

I certainly would not go as far as Jack Myers who predicts civil unrest and political demonstrations should the outcome of next Tuesday's election be a defeat for Obama. However, I think it is reasonable to point out to the election commissioners of every state that a perception of fraud in this election will significantly damage the faith of Americans and the world in our democracy and undermine our ability to be a positive force for good in the world. As Myers writes:
This time you will be uncovered. While some may try to obstruct the votes of Democratic-leaning segments of society, hundreds of thousands of poll watchers are on hand outside polling places. The Democratic National Committee has lawyers standing at the ready in contested states.
So am I concerned that the election will be stolen? Am I concerned that John McCain, Patriot and war hero, will allow a result to stand which rests upon voter fraud? Absolutely not. If John McCain is elected President of the United States and if John McCain knows that this election was achieved through subverting the democtratic process of this country, I fully expect him to assure his place in our history as a savior of our democracy by standing on stage and telling the American people and the world exactly how the election was stolen and renouncing the results. Note to McCain -- seems like a much easier way to become a permanent positive part of the history of America than trying to turn around this economy!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

700 Billion Smiles

I will reserve judgement on the US Government's $700 billion bailout plan until we see how well it works. But in the meantime there is something that all of us can do which is as important, if not more. I call it 700 billion smiles.

One of the core issues that the economy has is not about money, at least not directly. It is about confidence. I am seeing this issue every day -- your business may not have felt any impact from a slowdown in the general economy, but all this bad news is weighing you down. You might feel depression, anxiety, or just be calmly postponing decisions about purchases or investments -- waiting to see how things turn out.

But those behaviors, compounding across the world economy, are bringing about the recession just as certainly as the shortage of capital for commercial paper.

Optimism is an enormously powerful economic stimulant. Pessimism an equally powerful retardent. What we all need to do is rebuild our own confidence, and help those around us. That is where the smiles come in.

First of all, smiling will make YOU feel better. Really. The corners of your mouth pushing upwards actually tricks your brain into releasing chemicals which improve your mood. Try it.

And secondly, smiling is contagious. If people see you smiling, they will find themselves wanting to smile as well.

It's a powerful tribal behavior which we can tap into and help improve the mood, thereby confidence, and by extension the economy.

They didn't call it the great DEPRESSION for nothing. Now get out there and start smiling!

-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Only 2 Spots Left! (Pitch Camp Berlin)

Robert Goldberg and I have been working hard to improve and expand the format of our "Pitch Camp x.0" Workshop at Web 2.0 Expo Europe and we have some very exciting updates:

1. Due to demand from entrepreneurs we have expanded the panel of experts that now includes folks from Google, Sun, Microsoft, Accel, Atlas Ventures and more! Check out the expanded session description here http://www.budurl.com/2wx6

2. We have made the format even more interactive. Now each participating company will be pre-assigned one of the panelists as a coach. There will be a hands on session where the coach helps in real time each company revise the pitch. This should get the competitive juices flowing. Other attendees to the workshop will also be assigned to observe the process.

3. We have found thousands of dollars worth of prizes to give away to the winners who will judged by the entire panel of experts. Check out the site http://www.budurl.com/2wx6 for more details on the prizes

4. Every participating company will get a prize!

5. We have a facebook event page, please sign up http://www.budurl.com/eu8v

6. IMPORTANT the deadline for submitting an application to pitch and participate is OCTOBER 11th. Email me to get an application -- tshelton (a) theconversationgroup.com

7. Several companies who are financially strapped have approached us to see if they could participate. We are talking to the O’Reilly folks about the possibility of getting one, but at most two session only passes for 1-2 worthy companies. Not a done deal yet, but we are hopeful. FYI if they become available these passes will only get you into the Pitchcamp Workshop and nothing else. So if your applying to pitch and are operating on a shoestring, in the applications process please let us know your circumstances and we will see what we can do to offer you a Scholarship!

8. PARTY – we are having a special VIP party later Tuesday night ONLY for people who attend the workshop. Details and tickets will be provided at the workshop, but take my word for it… it’s going to be great!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pitch Camp! Or how much fun can we have in Berlin?

Are you coming to Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin at the end of the month? If you are, please join Robert Goldberg and I for our October 21st workshop on how to improve the way you tell your company's story to VCs, partners, and the media. Here is the link to the official session description:


where you will see the great lineup of folks at our panel:

* Mike Butcher – European Editor TechCrunch
* Toby Copel – Managing Director of Europe, Yahoo!
* Matt Marshall – Managing Editor and CEO, Venture Beat
* Mehrdad Piroozram – Managing Partner, iSteps Widget Ventures
* Reshma Sohoni – CEO, Seedcamp
* Adam Valkin – Head of Digital Media and New Business, Endemol
* Yossi Vardi – Investor and Entrepreneur


Sorry for yelling :-) Robert and I are looking for 8-12 startups that want to participate in the camp as the example companies (anyone can come and participate as an attendee of Web 2.0 Expo). These participating companies get

1) one-on-one coaching by one of our panelists
2) special prizes for participating and even better prizes for being the best
3) oh, and you'll probably improve the way you tell your story to VCs, partners, and the media!

Send an email to Robert -- robert(at)crossroadsvc(dot)com -- if you want to be one of the companies.

See you in Berlin!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cult of the Professional

I am certainly not the first person to flip the language of Andrew Keen's 2007 book The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture, and reflect on how he is suffering from, and trying to impose on all of us, the cult of the professional. But I have been recently reminded of how pervasive this cult of the professional is in our society.

In Keen's book we are told that a terrible thing is happening, all kinds of people are connecting to each other online and sharing their views with each other and this "amateur content" is destroying "our cultural standards and moral values." I could, complain about how Keen's view is stuck somewhere in the past, but this pro-establishment view is thoroughly entrenched in our culture and regularly keeps otherwise rational people from understanding the radical reformation of our society that is underway.

In one recent conversation a seemingly well-educated person told me that she only reads reviews of movies in the New Yorker and thinks it is ridiculous that people would trust average people's individuals views on movies instead of a trusting a "professional movie reviewer."

I thought she must be joking, so I laughed... which did not seem to go over well.

So I pointed out that I would much rather have the opinions of other liberal dads with daughters about a movie than some "professional" in New York who I may have nothing in common with and who may be evaluating the movie based on criteria meaningless to me. It was fascinating to hear her angry retort:
"sure, and someday maybe we'll go into a science classroom and anyone who wants to will get up and give the lecture instead of someone who actually knows something about science!"
Wow, I thought. This really misses the whole point. Whether a movie is good or not is about a statement of preference. Sure, a professional videographer might have something to say about the quality of the camera work -- but when I am reading a review, I just want to know whether or not I will have a good time!

So in cases of preference, an "amateur" opinion can be just as (if not more) valuable than "professional" opinion since it may more accurately reflect a view that has relevance for the recipient. So what about cases where opinion is not at stake, where presumably there is some agreed upon "facts?"

Certainly it is true that if I want specific knowledge I want to go to someone whom I trust to have the knowledge -- so in a science class I would want an instructor that has, through some professional process, been certified as having such knowledge... But then shall we leave aside that such certification can be unreliable ?

Which brings up a second dimension -- how does one becomes a professional and be "certified" -- and why do we assume that the way in which "professionals" are certified is better than any other method for identifying experts? It is a testament to how deeply we believe in "professionals" that we want to see an institutional certification and that this is more trusted than recognition from a community.

What I see happening in this "amateur" media is that the audience, instead of editors, are selecting the best content producers. They are recommending the best producers by reading them, linking to them, and recommending them. This does present a challenge when "facts" are at stake -- the writer most preferred by an audience might not be the one who is the most accurate. And it certainly doesn't put any sort of control in place for reviewing material for accuracy.

But this has a way of self-correcting over time. The web provides a platform for debate. Over time on any truly controversial issue, the conversation becomes a bell curve -- advocates on one side and opponents on the other with the bulky middle made up of people who don't really care.

And hasn't that always been true with the "professionals" as well?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Why Obama

A comment on my blog from Michael asks why don't I blog about why I think Obama is the right choice for our next president. My only problem with doing that is that I can't hope to have enough time to be complete in my post, so if you'll forgive me for missing important points:

(1) America vs. the rest of the world
How do we in America want to play on the world scene? I believe that Barack Obama is America's best chance to re-engage as a partner in solving the world's many problems. During the last eight years we have become an arrogant unilateral military force unwilling to cooperate to solve the world's pressing energy, security, economic and environmental issues. We need a President, and I believe Obama is the one, who can entirely change that equation and demonstrate to the world that we are willing to be a peer and collaborate on solutions.

(2) The War on Terror
I do not agree with the language and the policies of America's unilateral "war on terror" -- I believe that our policies have made us less safe in the world, not more. We need to partner with the rest of the developed world to build up the economies and the opportunities of the poorest people. Social equity and economic opportunity is the best solution to the threat of terrorism. It is a people who have nothing to lose that will throw their lives away against those that they perceive to be tyrants. So help them have something they are afraid to lose. Build up their economies and their lives. Obama offers policies of economic and social engagement with the poorest parts of the world -- and a message of reconciliation and hope that I believe, coming from him, that they will hear.

(3) The growing disparity in wealth here in America
The best America, the strongest America, is the one which has a strong and healthy middle class. Obama is committed to increasing economic and social equality here in the US. I believe that innovation is the key to solving the world's problems and that we need a tax system which encourages and rewards innovation. But we can achieve this goal without gutting the middle class and forcing more and more of our population into the desperation of poverty. In fact, we cannot have a system which encourages and rewards innovation if we end up with a population of haves and have-nots. The greatest strength of our democracy and our economy is the well-educated middle class with disposable income. Obama's policies on taxes, education, and healthcare will reverse the current frightening trends to create a small population of super rich surrounded by a nation of the very poor.

(4) Technology and innovation
More than any candidate Obama understands the importance of technology and innovation - whether it is his support for NASA and manned space missions, his focus on increased competitiveness in telecommunications, his understanding that we must make massive investments in energy innovation, or his recognition that fundamental research in the sciences must not be bogged down by religious bickering - Obama is the one candidate ready to make innovation the centerpiece of the next great age of our nation.

(5) Tolerance of Diversity
Both as a symbol and through the government he will lead, Obama will lead our nation in embracing the most important values that have made us successful over the past 200+ years -- embracing diversity and equality of all people regardless of their beliefs, their gender, their color, or any other way in which we are different.

Like I said, this isn't exhaustive. But I think the two candidates - John McCain and Barack Obama - are as different as can be on the issues that I consider to be the most important facing America and the world -- environment, society, economy, global relations, innovation and technology -- I simply do not understand what causes thoughtful Americans to support John McCain. I know that they do, and I seek to understand. But from my perspective, John represents a set of dead-ends that have been fully played out by the Bush administration. We can all see where these policies lead - and it is not good for ANY American in the long run. Nor for anyone in the world.

We have a responsibility as a wealthy nation to think about the whole planet. Vote for Barack Obama so that there is a tomorrow for us, for our children, and for all of those that will come beyond.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Obama Selects Biden as running mate

CNN staked out Joe Biden's house and at 8:44 pm EST reported that suddenly the Biden family was under significantly increased police protection. It was probably then that we could have all guessed that Joe Biden would be the next Vice President of the United States -- not withstanding the American electorate losing its mind and electing John McCain in November.

On the subject of John McCain, just a guess - McCain team wrote one press release with the name of the VP candidate left open — then when the announcement came out, inserted Biden's name.

Can't they come up with something more thoughtful than "There has been no harsher critic.." ? I mean, its not even true. Clinton was clearly Obama's harshest critic.

I guess I have lived in California for too long. I just cannot imagine what motivates anyone to believe that McCain would be a good president. And yet there are the polls saying that roughly half of our great nation wants McCain and his promise to:

(1) reduce taxes for the rich
(2) continue to wage war in the middle east
(3) further destroy America's reputation in the world
(4) support anti-competitive policies in telecommunications
(5) restrict research into stem-cells
(6) take away a woman's right to choose in a core issue of her own health and well-being
(7) undermine our basic freedoms

I'd guess I need to try and spend some time hearing why McCain's supporters believe he would be a good leader for our country. For the life of me, I can't understand it at all.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Obama Campaign Responds to Republican Lies

Today, the Obama campaign released “Unfit for Publication,” a fact-check of the latest Republican attack machine’s book, full of false, rehashed attacks. The report outlines a sampling of the lies, half-truths and misleading statements in the book “Obama Nation,” by Jerome Corsi. It also reports Corsi’s controversial and bigoted comments and his involvement previous smear attacks, like the false swift-boat attacks on John Kerry.

"Jerome Corsi is a discredited liar who is peddling another piece of garbage in order to continue the Bush-Cheney politics he helped perpetuate four years ago. His is one of what will likely be many lie-filled books rushed to print this election cycle that are cobbled together from debunked internet sources to make money and advance a partisan agenda. We will forcefully respond to these smears with all means at our disposal,” said Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor.

Here’s the button you should look for on our www.fightthesmears.com site, which will soon link to the report:


Friday, August 01, 2008

Medieval Pizza Recipes

Certainly one of the most memorable events of my family's visit to Europe this summer was our stay at Chateau de Matval, a castle outside Vendome (45 minutes south of Paris by TGV). The castle (oh, chateau I mean) has been restored over the past 30 years through the efforts of Bob and Claude Mitrani. The result is truly amazing -- they have made the castle into a home, but kept intact medieval architectural details (including a low stone doorway arch that I conked my head on).

A highlight of our visit was the treat of having pizza inside a 6th century cave, in the original oven and dining room. This room was already old when in the 1700s people were scratching their names and dates into the limestone arches holding up the ceiling. The fire must be built 10-12 hours before you expect to use the oven but once going can cook an enormous amount of food. In fact this oven was used during World War II to cook bread for the neighboring village of Bonneveau.

Sitting inside caves that have been inhabited since the Chateau was founded in 524 AD is an incredible experience, but the rest of the castle is just as amazing as well. The tower is one of the few that exist from the 12th century - many having fallen or been destroyed. Originally this castle likely had four towers and was a traditional square. Other details from the 13th and 14th century including beautiful stone arches have all been restored by the Mitrani family.

Of course the 20th century pool was also nice during the hot afternoons in central France -- all in all a most amazing experience. Bob and Claude have now decided to make their home available for rent during a few weeks of the summer so if you are interested in a chateau for rent at the top of the Loire valley with two of the most wonderful hosts you can imagine - let me know or contact them directly and mention my name. You will have the time of your life!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Complaint Department

OK - I have now been to Paris twice in the last week without going to Paris. Oh, if you haven't been keeping up with the story, the family is spending the summer in France. I am traveling around different places to work with clients. We just arrived last Friday at CDG and jumped in a car to head to Le Havre, our home for three weeks (a beautiful, wonderful home). So that was my first time in Paris in the last week - and all I saw was freeway as I drove out of town. Then, on Monday, I had to head to Brussels. So I took the train from Le Havre to Paris -- which comes into St Lazar -- then took the RER E line between their and Gare du Nord (entirely underground) and jumped on the train to Brussels. Again in Paris without really being IN Paris Aargh!

But Brussels is nice...

Monday, June 02, 2008

Brilliant move Hillary

Pundits say she has probably lost her Senate seat in NY, but she continues to have an enormously passionate audience nationwide, and in Puerto Rico where she beat nominee-in-waiting Obama 2 to 1 on Sunday. For awhile, those of us that are novices in the chess game that is power politics, have been wondering why she is still running. Why is she still at it on June 2nd? After the rules committee has already closed the door? Aha! Tomorrow in her conciliatory speech acknowledging that Obama has won the nomination she will ask for one little thing -- the VP slot. And if she does, can Obama deny her that role?


Its not her first choice certainly. But battling all the way to the convention could lose the race for the Dems AND ruin her chance to run in 2012. Being VP is a heck of a lot better than ending her career. And if she and Barack can win this (and why wouldn't they?) then she is still in line for the presidency -- at least as the favored (undisputed) candidate in 2016.

Good move Hillary.

Obama-Clinton '08 ! OC08

UPDATE: Senator Feinstein begins the drumbeat for a Vice President Hillary Clinton

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Peter Hirshbeg

Peter Hirshberg
Originally uploaded by Ted Shelton
Photos are now going up on Flickr -- over 600 of them -- from our May 29th event "There's a New Conversation" -- click here -- eventually I will cull through them and make a photo album of the best. Like this one of a thoughtful Peter Hirshberg preparing his presentation.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Industrial vs. Social Production

In a recent TED Conference talk, law professor Yochai Benkler speaks on the topic "open-source economics" and makes the compelling argument that
collaborative projects like Wikipedia and Linux represent the next stage of human organization.
The heart of Benkler's argument is a distinction he makes between "industrial production" and "distributed production" and "social production." The impact of the transition that Benkler describes reaches far beyond "open source."

In fact I believe that the shift that Benkler describes is also at the core of understanding the way in which business will change over the next decade.

Soho Engineering Works

Scottish inventor James Watt filed a patent in 1769 for a steam engine. His company, Soho Engineering Works, is often cited as a landmark on the map of events that brought about the "industrial revolution."

This progress began to accelerate about 150 years ago when the steam engine began to find broad application in transportation and power generation. Mass production, mass markets, and mass media all grew up around this set of technical advances.

The challenge of the modern corporation in the twentieth century was one of coordinating large numbers of resources (people, equipment, capital) by aggregating those resources under the control of a small number of individuals who could direct those resources toward a specific end (you know, capitalism).

Along the way we had to develop hierarchical organizational structures, operational efficiencies to simplify and standardize the role of labor, eliminate differences in products to achieve economies of scale in manufacturing and distribution, and invent a marketing methodology that delivered a simple message to the largest number of people through an increasingly consolidated set of media outlets (you know, industrial production).

And we think of the world that Watt created as being "normal."

How to stop worrying and learn to love the Internet

1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal;

2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it;

3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really.
With a nod to Dr. Strangelove, the late Douglas Adams penned an article for the News Review section of The Sunday Times all the way back on August 29th, 1999 entitled "How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet." Like Strangelove's bomb, Adams sees the Internet as a challenge to us on how to adapt to a world which has suddenly and forever been fundamentally changed by technology. Its funny to read, as Adams always is, but it would be funnier if we had all already understood the core message of change that the Internet brings and shown some adaptability.

Far too many of us still believe that the industrial world is normal. In fact it was a brief episode in human evolution. It expresses some of the best and worst of what is possible in moving from tribes to global civilization. And its undoing actual began long before the Internet -- which is to say, like the 80 years that passed between Watt's patent and the real take-off point for the industrial revolution, the technology to bring about the next major economic, social, and political force has actually been at work for decades. The Internet (and the web in particular) is the tipping point -- the application of this new technology into a product that will transform instead of merely change incrementally.

The Magic of Coordinating Distributed Production

But many people miss WHY the Internet is so important. They focus on how it "disintermediates" existing markets but this is a symptom not a cause. Some focus on how it "levels the playing field" making it possible for small companies to compete against large ones or individuals to have a voice -- also a symptom. The really important change is in the way in which resources are coordinated.

In an industrial production model, coordination of resources was dependent upon people managing and overseeing the investment, labor, or other resources. But three things have changed this -- virtually free computation, data storage, and network bandwidth. Now we can put the algorithm in charge of coordinating distributed production.

How does this change things?

Each of us have a capacity to produce -- money, data, ideas, opinions, observations. That production can be quickly and easily harnessed via web applications, and then coordinated across all like producers to achieve outcomes that no one person could ever achieve.

A simple example of this is the website "FreeRice" which aggregates attention and cash and converts the two into donations of rice to the UN world hunger program. The site was created by programmer John Breen who was interested in helping his sons study for their SAT college entry exams. So he created a site that provides vocabulary challenges. In exchange for each correct definition 20 grains of rice are donated. These donations are funded by advertising (currently Unilever is promoting their partnership with the World Food Programme) .

So what is happening here? The value to someone (in this case Unilever) for a moment of your attention is worth approximately 20 grains of rice. Alone these pennies of value for your attention and my attention are difficult to do anything with. It is difficult for Unilever to find an efficient way to spend that little money at a time. It is difficult for anyone to do anything with that little. But John Breen, by creating this point of coordinated production called FreeRice, gives Unilever an efficient way to aggregate enough attention to be worth their time (and money) to spend to attract that attention. And the output of that attention, the aggregate of all those pennies for attention, is large enough to make a real difference in the world.

32 Billion grains of rice donated in the first six months.

What does this mean for you?

Start applying the following question to the things you want to achieve -- in your business, in your community, and in your life -- how can you use the Internet to coordinate production to more rapidly attain your objective?

This has a set of questions you need to ask in order to be successful. Here is just a beginning: What is the resource you wish to coordinate? What is the right way to engage the people who have that resource? How will you promote this amongst the various participants? What are the component parts that you need to build, buy, borrow? Who will partner with you to make this possible?

How do I get started?

Watch Benkler's speech for yourself:

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Getting to London the hard way

Denver used to be an important international hub for United Airlines. After today I have the clear sense that it has become an important regional hub, but is no longer a major starting point for international flights...

I made the mistake of booking my London travel through Denver. Why? Because they could guarantee me an upgraded seat into business class (you know - lie flat across the atlantic). Since I am err.. was going straight into meetings in London, sleeping on the plane seemed key.

But first our flight was delayed out of SFO. Then there was some "microburst" activity on the ground in Denver. So I missed the connection. And the next flight to London out of Denver is 8:20 pm the next day. Thats right, one per day.

So I had to get myself out of there -- Here is the crazy routing that still gets me in on the 7th (yes, it took awhile to sort this one out). Denver to Chicago. Chicago to Washington Dulles. Dulles to London. I get in at about 10:00 pm on the 7th.

Total elapsed time - almost 24 hours. Four separate flights. The beautiful insides of SF, Denver, Chicago, Washington, and of course London terminals.

Anyone want to bet on where my luggage ends up?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

May 29th - There's A New Conversation Palo Alto

Announcing the second in the series! We are bringing our celebration of Cluetrain at 10 to Palo Alto -- Graciously hosted by SAP at their offices just off of Foothill Expressway.

We have expanded the format from the February in New York event to respond to the many requests for more networking time and more discussion time. The full day event (including cocktail reception afterwards) will now include both presentations and breakout sessions for discussion with all attendees.

This larger format is more costly to produce, and so the fee for attending the event will be $185 (continental breakfast, lunch, and cocktail reception are included). But until May 10th you can register for an "early bird" rate of just $95

More on the event:
Ten years ago, four authors came together to start a new conversation about marketing. The result was a book called The Cluetrain Manifesto and with it, Chris Locke, Rick Levine, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger nailed 95 Theses on the door of the Internet and challenged us all to wake up to a transformation underway in how companies and people engage in markets. Looking back over the past ten years we have learned a lot about what happens when mass markets adopt collaborative online communities and it is time to revisit this vital document that played an important role in starting a new conversation about what it means to be a marketer. What have we learned? What was right and wrong? What was left out that we should have been thinking about? What should we be thinking about for the next ten years?

* Doc Searls, co-author of "The Cluetrain Manifesto" and fellow at Harvard's Berkman Institute
* Peter Hirshberg, Chairman of the Executive Committee of Technorati and Chairman and Partner at The Conversation Group
* Jeremiah Owyang, VP, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research
* Deborah Schultz, independent social media expert

Register for our May 29th event in Palo Alto CA at http://conversation.eventbrite.com/

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Social Hub at Web 2.0 Expo

The Conversation Group is producing a blogger lounge at the upcoming Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco -- if you are in town, I hope you'll join the fun. Space is limited so you'll need to register at


Here is the official information:

Blogtropol.us is the dedicated media and networking lounge for bloggers, content producers, and journalists during Web 2.0 Expo 2008. In a private suite, in the middle of the conference action, Blogtropol.us is designed for you to host and share conversations among digital influencers – both online and offline.
Open to all digital media-makers attending Web 2.0 Expo, Blogtropol.us is the exclusive venue for creating media and discussing conference happenings. Daily live streamed and on-demand video shows will be broadcast to cover the most important conversations of the conference for online discussion and sharing.

CONNECT: Free bandwidth, power, workstations and superior Internet connectivity provided
RE-CHARGE: Food, refreshments, beverages, and afternoon happy hour
RELAX: Daily yoga sessions and chair massages
FOLLOW: @blogtropolus on Twitter to keep up with all of the Blogtropol.us and Web 2 action, as it happens

Blogtropol.us is brought to you by: Snap, Mzinga, Something Simpler Systems, BottleNotes, Pandora, Socialtext, Radian6, Elephant Pharmacy, and CNET Webware.
In order to participate you must have a Web 2.0 Expo Pass or conference pass AND you must register for the lounge at - http://blogtropolus.eventbrite.com. Space is limited!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Destroy the Democratic Party

This meme is really taking off. Already Google has indexed about 26,200 results for a search on
"destroy the democratic party" +obama +clinton"
Google Blog Search (not always the best source...) has 118 results from this query in the last month, and only 2 more if you expand the scope of the search to "all time." 7 of these results are from the past day -- making a monthly average something over 200, so the meme may still be seeing acceleration.

What has everyone upset? Number one is the idea that the super delegates will select the nominee, against the clear majority expression of will by the direct electorate. As one politically connected friend of mine recently said "that would tear the party apart, like the whigs being destroyed by disagreement in the mid 1800s." I don't believe he was connecting the debate of that time (over slavery) to the debate today (also with a racial component). But it was an interesting point about how deep differences of value can bring to an end institutions which have otherwise stood the test of time. While not as long-lived as the current Democratic party (there have been others), the Whig party lasted a long 23 years -- for some voters it existed during their entire lifetimes at the moment of its destruction.

In case you have been hiding under a rock, but somehow read my blog, the latest in this debate is the entry of Nancy Pelosi into the fray. Through her media representative, her position was clarified quite clearly today:
"The speaker believes it would do great harm to the Democratic Party if superdelegates are perceived to overturn the will of the voters," Daly said. "This has been her position throughout this primary season, regardless of who was ahead at any particular point in delegates or votes.”
This was partially in response to a set of big wheel donors who sent a letter to her stating, in part, that superdelegates "have an obligation to make an informed, individual decision about whom to support and who would be the party’s strongest nominee."

The debate about super delegates is of course a veiled debate about Clinton vs. Obama -- sort of like a war in Korea or Vietnam, its a proxy war for the bigger issue. The saddest part of this process for me is in watching the Clintons entirely deconstruct. How does it remain a rational position to say that Obama is not ready for the White House given the broad support he has received from other politicians and from the electorate? To continue this petty and self-serving argument merely reduces Hillary Clinton to the position of spoiler.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Vertical Search = Vertical Market

"Watch Out Google, Vertical Search is Ramping Up!" shouted a September 2006 headline in Read/Write Web. According to the "experts" we were going to see a rising tide of vertical search products like Technorati, pluggd, retrevo, zoominfo, and Farecast taking market share from mass market Google. But by the beginning of 2008, Read/Write Web was instead describing Vertical Search as limited to "...the search space that Google has not yet grabbed..." So what happened?

I have been reading about the panel on vertical search at the SES conference in New York. Bill Tancer (Hitwise) points out that search is increasingly dominated by Google:

- 66% Google,
- Yahoo 21%,
- MSN 7%
- Ask 4%
- Other 2%

And Google has been doing a great job putting "vertical search" content into its search engine. And so a lot of searchers are going "from search engine to search engine."

The result of this is that many of these vertical search engines receive an enormous amount of their overall traffic from Google (their supposed enemy). These "pass-through vistors" have not learned to go to the vertical search engines, but start with Google, end up at a vertical search location for the results they want, and then move on to their destination -- never developing a relationship directly with the vertical search engine.

The really interesting unanticipated consequence? Vertical search companies are being lulled into believing that there is a mass market audience for their vertical search products. This skews expectations and business model -- making these companies think that this pass-through traffic, which represents the larger share of their page views, is also the most valuable part of their traffic.

Instead, I believe that these vertical search companies would do much better to focus on the dedicated repeat visitors -- the vertical MARKET that their vertical search capabilities appeal to, and to find ways to serve that core repeat audience and not the fickle pass through audience that comes from Google.

Once a vertical search company has focused on their core audience, there are a set of very different decisions they will make about the features and core capabilities to invest in from an engineering perspective. And a very different set of revenue opportunities to explore.

In the end, Google is going to do a great job in virtually every vertical search category for the "casual" searcher. Differentiating from Google is going to mean focusing on the needs of a particular vertical user, not just carving out one data type to index.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Say it Aint so Joe

Publications as mainstream as Time Magazine have begun referring to Senator Joe Lieberman as a possible running mate for Republican John McCain. Is it really true? Could Joe Lieberman really be considering shacking up in the White House with the conservative agenda's best bet for holding on to the presidency? In the immortal words once spoken to Shoeless Joe Jackson, "say it aint so Joe!"

Let's get this straight. John McCain believes (from his campaign website) that
"...Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned..."
"...the institution of marriage is a union between one man and one woman..."and that it should be "...a federal crime for researchers to use cells or fetal tissue from an embryo created for research purposes..."
And let's not forget that this is the guy that goes around singing "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran."

The scary possibility is that Joe Lieberman with be the nadir this year, instead of Nader -- handing center of the road voters to the conservative coalition and dooming our country to at least four more years of horribly misguided policies, further damaging our reputation in the world, and further eroding our economy.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

TED: Also a great conference

No the TED -- http://www.ted.com conference is not named after me, but instead stands for Technology Education and Design. For the past month I have been taking advantage of the incredible gift that TED has given all of humanity (or at least that portion that has Internet access and understands English) by making years and years of their conference talks available as podcasts.

To say that the speakers at TED are amazing wouldn't do justice to the incredible breadth of knowledge and depth of experience that these remarkable people have achieved and are able to share through engaging presentations. Must see TV for any curious person -- it almost doesn't matter which 20 minute talk you choose. They are all hidden treasure waiting to be discovered.

What I have been doing is downloading them to my iPhone and listening to a few each day during my morning run. Sometimes I have to stop and switch to the video, as the visual elements are often amazing -- but mostly I just listen. And then go on thinking about the ideas for days.

Highly recommended!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Congratulations Obama (or - why isn't this over?)

Let me make a bold statement. Obama has won the Democratic nomination. With his latest wins in Mississippi and the Texas Caucasus, Obama now has (ignoring "superdelegates") 161 more delegates than Hillary Clinton. The number of delegates at stake in Pennsylvania is 188 -- so Hillary Clinton would have to win almost 100% of the vote to pull ahead of Obama. That is not going to happen. Even if Clinton has a two digit lead (and polls do show her as ahead in that state) she is unlikely to close the gap by more than 50 delegates, leaving Obama with a comfortable 100 delegate lead of Clinton going into the convention.

No wonder the Clinton camp would like to bring Florida and Michigan back into the fold. And how stupid it was of the Democratic party to try and disenfranchise these voters! But any attempt to take the results of the February primaries and apply them to the current situation will be as severe a miscarriage of our representative democratic process as if the super delegates were allowed to chose the Democratic party nominee.

There are only two options now for the DNC -- award the nomination to Obama or rerun the primaries in those two states. How terrible for our nation that we will waste $30 million on this exercise. Michigan, by the way is 156 delegates and Florida is 210. So if you combine those two with the 188 in Pennsylvania, there are a total of 554 delegates at stake. Clinton would have to win 162 more than Obama. As close as each of these races has been, do YOU think you would win that many more? Is this worth $30 million that could be used for education in our public schools?

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Video from Austin (SXSW)

The team from The Conversation Group is on the ground here in Austin and filming all over the conference and all over town! Our goal is to bring you a taste of what it is like here at the SXSW interactive conference -- our partner Pure Digital provided us with the wonderful Flip video cameras and we have been putting them to good use on our new site, This is SXSW.

The lastest video, which I am just posting now, is a rundown on what happened this morning in the session on what teens want from their phones and from the Internet -- attendees couldn't get enough of these 16 and 17 year olds talking about how they are experiencing the world through all of this participatory technology. Check out Jim Hirshfield's summary --


Friday, March 07, 2008

NPR, Ken Stern, and the local stations

I was going to write a short blog post about why I no longer contribute to KQED (the local bay area NPR station) and why Ken Stern is right and the board who threw him out was wrong... but then Jeff Jarvis does such a good job:
Well guess, what, local yokels, hate to tell you this but… You’re screwed! You bet the internet is going to hurt you.
So, not today. Maybe not this year. But really soon now people in the economic bracket that traditionally has supported local public radio will all have the ability to get exactly the programming they want, when they want it, where they want it. And it will be integrated into our cars along with the traffic that is already there on the GPS.

Sure, it will actually probably take 5 years until the "tipping point" -- but why should any of us be supporting radio tower infrastructure? I want to directly support the programming, not the distribution mechanism.

NPR wake up or you will just be replaced by the creative destruction of the Internet.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Best comment of the evening (supernova)

Best comment on the evening during Jerry's discussion on Business in the Networked world for the Supernova mixer:

Advertising is transactional

commercial success is persistent

this creates a conflict

For me this offers a great insight into the potential hazard for marketing professionals -- excluding brand campaigns, a lot of advertising as a medium leads you to think about the transactional impact -- am I going to get more people to buy the product? But you can do so in a way that overlooks the long term -- persistent relationship -- aspect that ultimately determines commercial success.

I was just advising a client today on why NOT to do an email "blast" as part of his company's online marketing campaign. If you look at the activity from a purely transactional perspective you could conclude that if X number of people purchases from the email, the expense of the campaign is covered and the activity is justified.

But if you put the "blast" into the context of developing a persistent presence in a market and a set of relationships in that market, the negative long term effects of being perceived as spammer that sends unsolicited mail could have a much greater negative impact than the transactional value of those one time sales.

This certainly isn't an indictment of all transactional advertising -- but perhaps opens the door to an economic analysis that includes the persistent relationships that a company ultimately is dependent upon for its long term success.

Natural Cost (Supernova conversation)

Jerry Michalski just made a great point about looking at "natural cost" -

"The fear that Craigslist should be putting in the hearts of classified and Yellow Pages execs worldwide is: what if the "natural cost" of delivering local ads and fostering local markets is incredibly low? If you don't have operators on duty to transcribe (and misspell) ads and if you don't print on paper and haul it all over the place, you can afford to charge only one kind of advertiser -- say, companies placing want ads -- and have that pay for the rest and spill money out the other end.

And that's just classifieds. In Ads and Google we theorized about how Google might just be able to fund major communication infrastructure as a by-product of its core business (which, notably, is also self-serve advertising). What's the natural cost of telecommunications? Customer service? Other sectors?"


Supernova Wharton - Business in a Networked World

Jerry Michalski speaking at the Supernova Wharton San Francisco Mixer. The conversation starts with -- are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of these social technologies.

Good arguments on both sides -- interesting pattern of agreement that if we can't find information on people through social networks -- we worry. There is (for this techno-connected group) a red flag on people who do not have a healthy online presence.

Supernova Discussion at Wharton West

The Supernova Wharton San Francisco Mixer gets started in a little while but the starting point is a choice between two great talks and I am finding it hard to chose between them -- Jeremiah Owyang leading a discussion on Social Graphs and Jerry Michalski on Business in a networked world... I guess I'll pick Jerry and try to catch Jeremiah during the cocktails afterwards.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Kindle Comments (Amazon Kindle)

Yes, I did. I bought a Kindle (Amazon's e-book reader) and I love it. The other day, in the "sleep" mode, the kindle had a message asking for feedback and providing an email address. I sent my comments but never heard back -- so I don't know if my comments failed to reach a human being, or if they have no mechanism (human or otherwise) for responding... Rather than lose the opportunity to have a conversation with the Kindle team, I decided to post my comments as an open letter -- I'd also love to hear what other people think of their Kindles...

Kindle team:

Thanks for a great experience overall - I am really enjoying my kindle.

I doubt I will say anything that you haven't heard, but here goes:

1) A number of navigation elements are non-intuitive -- in particular the idea of forward and back -- in my mind on a device this is firmly routed in web browsing -- so I expect to go "back" to what I was doing, not the linear "back" of a page turn. For example, if I leave a document to look up the definition of a word, I then want to go "back" to where I was just reading

2) The lack of page numbers is frustrating -- it would be nice if there was some corollary in your book formatting to page numbers so that if someone says "look at page X" then I can get there even though the electronic pagination is different from print pagination.

3) If images are removed, it would be nice to see it noted in the text that in the original book there was an image

4) I canceled my subscription to the NY Times because it is too frustrating to read. Part of that is the news is too old (I am a web junky so last nights news is stale) but part of it is formatting. I hate reading an article and then going back to the list of articles from the beginning to start scanning again for something I want to read. I figured out the trick of jumping to a 'location' but this is an unwieldy hack, forcing me to remember to jump to "78" the entire time I am reading

5) I'd pay to read email on this... of course then I'd want to reply as well :-)

6) I haven't stopped looking for the clock. Why do I have to look at a different device to see what time it is?

keep up the great work!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

MSN Fakes It

MSN Fakes It
Originally uploaded by Ted Shelton
Who is the terrible advertising person working for MSN? Or the stupid people approving the ads? In this billboard ad (seen on the Bay Bridge approach in San Francisco) MSN announces "There's no way you can know everything. But you can fake it." I'm sorry, what is it that MSN thinks is a good idea? Being a know-it-all? Faker? Or is this self-descriptive? Google may have the best web index, but MSN does a good job of faking it? What does MSN even stand for anymore? Is it an AOL style walled garden? Is it a jumble of content destinations? Is it a search engine? An ad network? Actually, maybe they are faking all of these things.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Doc Searls at There's a New Conversation

The video of Doc Searls' presentation at our New York event on February 13th, 2008 is now live!  Go to our site on blip TV to view -- The Conversation Group Videos.  Doc talks about the origins of Cluetrain, how the ideas has developed over the past 10 years, what the next 10 years will bring, and about his current research work into what he calls "vendor relationship management" (VRM).

You can also listen to the audio which is available on our iTunes podcast

The Conversation Group Podcast

We will be working to get the other speaker's presentations up as video and audio soon!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Jake McKee, formerly of Lego

Jake McKee, formerly of Lego
Originally uploaded by HowardGr
Jake McKee is a terrific speaker, and gave a wonderful presentation in New York at our "There's a New Conversation" workshop. The video of his talk will be up soon, but in the meantime we have posted an interview with him conducted by Blog Talk Radio's John Havens. Visit our website for the ongoing event series at:

Cluetrain at 10 -- http://www.cluetrainat10.com

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Conversations on Social Media

Its happened! I have done my first podcast. Check out the results -- Conversations on Social Media. It sort of happened by accident. I was talking to a bunch of people about whether or not companies should start their own social networks or join existing ones. Jeremiah Owyang suggested it would make a great panel discussion and suddenly we were recording... along with Chris Heuer and Brian Oberkirch!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Doc Searls at There's a New Conversation

Doc Searls
Originally uploaded by HowardGr
Great conversation going on in NYC today at The Conversation Group's event "There's a New Conversation" -- celebrating 10 years since the origin of The Cluetrain Manifesto.

Watch our new site -- http://www.cluetrainat10.com

We'll be posting video soon of the event!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

New York Slush

New York Slush
Originally uploaded by Ted Shelton
Don't let the slush stop you from coming! Or if you can't come to "There's a New Conversation" tomorrow in NYC, don't worry as we will be recording Doc Searls and everyone else talking about the 10 years since the publication of The Cluetrain Manifesto and putting it on the web.

Not too late to register though if you aren't afraid of the slush:


Saturday, January 26, 2008

There's a New Conversation

Ten years ago, four authors came together to start a new conversation about marketing. The result was a book called The Cluetrain Manifesto and with it, Chris Locke, Rick Levine, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger nailed 95 Theses on the door of the Internet and challenged us all to wake up to a transformation underway in how companies and people engage in markets. Looking back over the past ten years we have learned a lot about what happens when mass markets adopt collaborative online communities and it is time to revisit this vital document that played an important role in starting a new conversation about what it means to be a marketer. What have we learned? What was right and wrong? What was left out that we should have been thinking about? What should we be thinking about for the next ten years?

Join us in New York City on February 13th for the first in a series of events this year which will reflect on the 10 years since the publication of the Cluetrain Manifesto.

Doc Searls, co-author of "The Cluetrain Manifesto" and fellow at Harvard's Berkman Institute
Ted Shelton, partner at The Conversation Group
Josh Bernoff, Senior Analyst, Forrester Research
Thor Muller, CEO of Get Satisfaction
Jake McKee, Principal at Ant's Eye View, and past Global Community Relations Specialist for the LEGO Company

Sign up here --> http://conversation.eventsbot.com/

Friday, January 18, 2008

Advertising: Now a Conversation

Tom Giles of Businessweek asked me if I would be interested in writing down some of my thoughts on how companies are evolving the way they think about marketing in the age of conversation. The result is this "Viewpoint" published by Businessweek this morning:

Advertising: Now a Conversation

In today's environment where independent information about a product is plentiful, traditional one-way messages to consumers no longer work

It's no secret the Internet has changed the way consumers get information about products and the companies that provide them. Because so much intelligence about a potential transaction is so readily available from independent sources, the message provided by conventional advertising has declined in value to consumers, who even question its trustworthiness.

None of this is to say that traditional one-way advertising—say, the kind you find on TV or in print publications and even banner ads on a Web page—can't play an important role in communicating with customers. At its best, the mission of the marketer is the creation of meaning. Taking a common product and imbuing it with the aspiration of adventure, achievement, or beauty was one of the amazing feats of the 20th century.

continue reading on the Businessweek website... Advertising: Now a Conversation

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Democratic Party Nominees Debate in Nevada

I have been registered as a Democrat since the day I could vote. And this year will be no different, I will vote for the Presidential candidate nominated by the Democratic party. I have been a partisan though since early on in the process, startling friends and family by putting an Obama sticker on my bumper (I don't generally like bumper stickers).

So I watched the debate in Nevada the other night prepared to love Obama and be satisfied with one of the three.

Other than being completely bored by the debate though, my only reaction was one of being disheartened by the candidates complete unwillingness to answer a direct question.

Anyone else have this reaction? I mean, sure -- some of the questions were inappropriate. But rather than just give a rambling non-answer, wouldn't it be better for the candidate to say "I am not going to answer that question." Or better yet, to explain why they won't answer?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Visit Asilomar

I probably use this space too often to complain about a company, product, or service that I have been disappointed with, and not often enough to talk about one that I have been happy with. With that in mind in 2008 I will try to do a better job of talking about the great company, product and service experiences I have -- starting with my family's vacation to Asilomar.

Located between Pebble Beach and Monterey, CA in the town of Pacific Grove, Asilomar is an amazing gem. Primarily a "conference center" Asilomar is also available to vacationers when there are rooms unused by the conferences. With beautiful Julia Morgan designed buildings, an incredible beach a short walk from the grounds, and easy access to the best of Carmel, Monterey, and the rest of the area it would be hard to go too far wrong.

There is an interesting trade-off though -- the Asilomar Conference Grounds has been a part of the California Park system since the 1950s and the facilities are operated under an agreement with a concessions contractor. This keeps prices low for such an incredible location, but results on low infrastructure investments. If it wasn't for this arrangement, Asilomar might have long ago been sucked into the Pebble Beach developments that are a stone's throw away. So I am glad that there is a way for families like mine to afford a beach vacation in Monterey. On the other hand, it would be nice if some of the more worn out parts of the facility would get a face lift.

But none of that will impede your families enjoyment -- the staff was great, the facilities include a great room with pool tables, ping pong, and endless board games. The aforementioned beach is beautiful and has something for everyone -- sand castles, nature walks, etc. And we also went wine tasting in Carmel Valley and found some great new wines and wineries!

Highly recommended. Here is the link again -- Asilomar.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Politweets.com -- Following the Election via Twitter

Here is a good one: "Obama is Apple, Hilary is Dell: http://tinyurl.com/2sfd72 (via Seeking Alpha) --ericlitman reported 2 minutes ago." I have no idea who Eric Litman is and never would have seen this cool article on Seeking Alpha if it hadn't been for this really ingenious web app that searches Twitter for "tweets" about all of the political candidates:


As many people have ridiculed Twitter as being useless as have adopted it as a core part of their online toolset. So with the pro-twitter and con-twitter lines having been drawn, it is refreshing to get an application like Politweets which brings out the really intriguing aspect of Twitter -- the ability to tap into the pulse of some very interesting distributed event (like an election) and see what is happening.

My friend Doug March is one of the people behind Character140, the group that has created the Politweets application. But lest anyone think that they are only trying to show Twitter's good side, last month they released a similar tool called Twittertale.com which shows the use of foul language on Twitter.

Both applications work the same way -- the search through all public Twitter posts to find uses of specific words and display this posts, along the way "ranking" the words for the frequency of their use. In the case of Politweets this also gives us the ability to see how much a candidate is being talked about in real time (at least how much they are being tweeted about).

Is it "citizen journalism" ? I personally think it is more like listening in on a whole bunch of private conversations -- but it is still a fascinating application of social media. And with the primaries in New Hampshire and elsewhere giving us all a lot to talk about, it is also very entertaining and maybe will even give us something to learn about ourselves, our nation, and this radical new kind of community technology.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The evil of docx

So Microsoft has done it again. As the number of Vista user increases, the number of Word documents I receive in the new Vista format increases. And of course, Microsoft has created a new format that cannot be read, even if you have bought Office 2004 on the Mac. Does anyone other than me find this completely unreasonable?

The only answer open to me, and every other non Vista user -- ask the sender of the document to resend in an old format.

Frankly it just makes me angry at Microsoft. It can't possibly be helping the impression of them as a company. There is no reasonable explanation for another document format change other than an attempt to force upgrades to Vista.

Couldn't we all simply refuse to use this new document type? Do we need to start a protest movement?